by Kevin Walsh

FUNNY how I miss things. Even though I have considered myself more diligent than ever in tracking down remnants of NYC’s past as an infrastructural archeologist, It’ surprising how much material slips past my notice. Last year I took an in-depth look at Celtic Avenue, a one-block road in Sunnyside, Queens, a last remnant of a much longer route that predated the neighborhood’s street grid as built in the early 1900s.

Forgotten Fan George Burles didn’t miss what I did, though, and duly sent me a couple photos of his find at #50-29 Celtic Avenue just where it meets 43rd Street.

See it there, right at the roofline? “L.I. Casket & Box Co.” No doubt the paint at the roofline wore down and became transparent enough to show it. This building was once the home of a casketmaking empire. It was propitiously located too, as Calvary Cemetery is a block or so away.

In 1940, 50-29 Celtic gave no indication of being part of a casket empire but it did have a porch which it has since lost. Note Celtic Avenue wasn’t paved at the time.

Update: Historian Joseph Ditta points out that the company was founded in 1923 by Louis Chianella and is still in business, as Island Casket, located in West Babylon.

Ad in Brooklyn Citizen, August 31, 1921 when this was #71 Celtic Avenue. Thus the firm may have been founded earlier than 1923.

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Joey Macellaro October 1, 2021 - 5:58 pm

The company still exists! They’re in Wyandanch, L.I., now and have changed their name to Island Casket. http://www.islandcasket.com/

Steve Soldwedel October 1, 2021 - 6:11 pm

It looks like Celtic Avenue continues through the cemetery and straight in line with Meeker Avenue, across the creek. Was that part of its original route?

Kevin Walsh October 1, 2021 - 6:38 pm

perhaps. Calvary was instituted in 1848.

Ty October 1, 2021 - 7:26 pm

This is interesting. I found a Daily News article from July 1 1981 profiling Albert Broccoli the producer of James Bond fame. (His uncle Pasquale de Cicco, who had a farm out in Lake Grove LI, brought broccoli to America) He grew up in Astoria – went to PS9 – says in the 1920s he worked as manager of the Long Island Casket company. The owner didn’t speak English he said so he was very useful. He said when he signed Sean Connery Sean told him he had a job polishing caskets back in Scotland.

Sunnysider October 1, 2021 - 8:04 pm

You may not have missed this your last visit. It may well have been covered up and only recently exposed. I don’t recall seeing it before now either.

Peter October 2, 2021 - 10:10 pm

Coffin (I hate the euphemism “casket”) sales used to be a complete pyramid scam. Funeral directors would mark them up enormously, often after figuring out what the people could afford to pay. Things got so scammy that in the 1980’s the federal government had to step in and allow customers to buy their own coffins. I mean, the family members, the stiffs themselves are pretty useless when it comes to accomplishing much of anything. You can buy coffins online for far less than what the funeral homes charge.
Of course you can always go the Walt Disney route with the liquid nitrogen, but that’s super expensive.


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